The next chapter, plus the lovely banner my wonderful beta alwaysjbj made for it.
The expected test the next day didn’t go well. Buffy had fallen asleep before she finished the second act and she had to guess at the answers to many of the questions. When she turned in her mostly blank paper with its invented answers to the few questions she’d been willing to take a stab at, the professor glanced at it and gestured for Buffy to wait instead of leaving with the other students. Willow made a sympathetic face, but obediently exited the classroom to wait outside.
The professor stared at Buffy over the rims of her glasses. She sighed and handed the paper back.
“Ms. Summers, I am not going to bother grading this. I will give you until tomorrow to actually read the play and come to my office during my regular office hours to take a revised version of this test.” She hesitated, then nodding as if agreeing with herself about something, she continued. “Ms. Summers—Buffy, I was born in Sunnydale. I went away to attend college in New England and had no intention of returning… ever. Do you know why I did return a few years ago?”
Buffy shook her head, biting back the urge to say “Because you’re a demon and it’s the Hellmouth?”
“I accepted the job here and returned home because I’d heard, from reliable sources, that there was now a girl living in Sunnydale whose job it was to keep the vampires and demons in check. That it was now safe – if one took reasonable precautions – to go out in the evenings. Even to teach evening classes at the local university.” She smiled at Buffy’s wide-eyed expression. “That girl is known as a… vampire killer? Some sort of demon assassin?”
“Slayer,” Buffy said shortly. “I’m the Slayer.”
“Ah. Well, whatever you choose to call yourself, I am well aware that you often do not get much sleep, nor much time for study in the evenings – and for much better reasons than most college students. Therefore, I am going to cut you some slack in this class. Not to the extent that you are not expected to do the readings and write the same papers as everyone else, but if you will email me in the morning on days when you’ve not had time to do the assignment, we will arrange for you to take an extra day and bring the work to my office. Is that acceptable to you?”
Buffy just stood, mouth gaping, and stared at the woman she’d thought was a demon. When the professor began to frown, Buffy shook herself out of her stupor and nodded vigorously. “Yes. Yes, of course it is. And thank you.” She turned and ran out of the room before the woman could change her mind.
Willow stood up from the bench she’d be waiting on. “So, are you in big trouble? What did she say?”
“She said she knows I’m the Slayer and she’s giving me an extra day to get work in any time I need one.” Buffy waved the test. “And I get to study for this and take it over tomorrow.”
“Wow. I don’t suppose you mentioned that you have a friend who’s a witch and helps you out sometimes….”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “You mean my friend the genius, who is so smart this school practically paid her to come here? That friend?”
“It was just a thought. Even geniuses can use a day off once in awhile.”
“Sorry, Wills. I just grabbed my test and ran.”
“Oh well, it was just a thought. Hey! Maybe you can get Spike to help you out tonight. Instead of studying demons, you can study Shakespeare.”
“You really think Spike’s going to be willing to do the study-buddy thing now? He was really ticked off last night….”
“He was really hurt last night. I’m sure when you apologize for—”
“When I what?”
Willow heaved a sigh. “Apologize. You know, tell him you didn’t mean to sound like he wasn’t any fun and that you didn’t enjoy the evening. Give him some reason to think you’re really sorry you said what you said.”
“I am sorry. But I don’t know… apologizing to Spike… It could set a whatchamacallit… precedent!”
“Just explain to him that he shouldn’t get used to it,” Willow said with a snicker. “It’s not like that wouldn’t be true.”
“Very funny.” Buffy sighed and stopped. “I guess I should go find him and see if he’ll do it. If he won’t, I’ll have to… I don’t know what I’ll have to do…”
“Read the play yourself?”
Buffy shuddered. “Apologize to Spike it is. I can do this.”
“You can do this,” Willow agreed. “Do you know where to find him in the daytime?”
“Yeah. He found a crypt in Restfield. I made him tell me where it was so I could check up on him.” When Willow looked at her with raised eyebrows, Buffy hastily added, “You know, in case the chip stops working or something. It’s important that I know where to find him.”
“Not saying a word…” Willow mimed zipping her lips. “What do you want me to tell Riley if he asks where you are?”
“Oh, crap, Riley. I forgot all about him.” Buffy ignored Willow’s shocked expression. “Tell him I’ll… I’ll catch him later today or tonight. I mean Spike might not want to do this right now, if he’s sleeping or something, so I don’t know…”
“Okay. I’ll just tell Riley you’re working on an important assignment and you don’t know when you’ll be back on campus.”
“Tell Spike I said ‘Hi’,” Willow said as she turned to go to her next class. “And tell him I still want him to be our study-buddy – assuming he isn’t still too mad to talk to you,” she added, remembering the vampire’s uncertain temper.
Textbook in hand, Buffy approached the crypt Spike had described to her. She shuddered as she pushed open the inner door, wishing she’d brought a flashlight. The small amount of light coming in the door and the filthy windows only made the interior murkier.
“Spike? Are you here?” The only reply was a groan from deeper in the room. Moving cautiously, Buffy entered, relieved when her eyes began to adjust to the gloom. She could see a figure huddled on top of a stone sarcophagus and approached it, all her senses alert. Her neck told her it was a vampire, and something familiar about the tingles told her it was probably Spike.
“What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she reached for his shoulder and rolled him towards her, flinching when she saw the swelling and cuts on his face. His eyes were shut and she wasn’t sure if he was even conscious. She spotted a candle on a stone shelf and brought it closer to the sarcophagus while she looked around for matches. Finding none, she checked the pockets of Spike’s coat, sighing in relief when she found his lighter and used it to light the candle.
Setting her book on a nearby table and holding the candle in the air, she took another look at him in the flickering light. Blood on his chest and hands as well as his face made her frown and look around for something to set the candle on. She set it on a corner of make-shift bed and pulled Spike’s ripped shirt the rest of the way open, shuddering at the additional bruises and cuts she found there. She lightly ran her hands over his ribs, biting her lip when she felt the broken ends pushing against his skin.
“What the hell did this to you?” she whispered, wondering what, if anything, she should do. The only response was another moan and an attempt to shift his position, which brought on a pained gasp. His eyes slit open as far as they could, given the swelling around them.
“Slay—?” he tried to say, his bruised lips barely moving.
“Shhh,” she said, touching his shoulder. “What happened to you? Wait, never mind. Don’t talk. What do you need? What should I do?”
“Make up… bloody mind,” he gasped.
“I’m sorry,” she said, the apology slipping out without thought. “I don’t want you to hurt yourself any more than—but if you tell me what I can do….”
“Blood,” he said. He fixed one barely-open eye on her. “… good stuff.”
“Okay. I’ll go to Willy’s and—you didn’t get like this trying to clear out Willy’s by yourself, did you? Cause he’s not gonna want to give me blood for you if—”
“Didn’t wreck his place. Didn’t go…”
His eyes drifted shut again, and Buffy decided not to ask him any more questions. She patted his shoulder again, then moved the candle back to its shelf and left the crypt. She ran most of the way to The Alibi Room, only slowing when she was in the parking lot. She walked straight up to the bar and grabbed the owner by the arm, dragging him past the few curious customers sitting around so early in the day and into his office.
“Blood. The good stuff. Gimme all you’ve got.”
“Have you been turned, Slayer?”
“Don’t be stupid. I just walked here in the daylight, didn’t I? Just give it to me.”
“What for?” At her narrowing eyes, he quickly back-tracked. “Yeah, sure. Just a second.” He went to a small cooler and reached in for a bag of blood, yelping when Buffy reached past him and picked up the cooler. “Hey, Slayer! I need—” He broke off when she glared at him. “Right. You obviously need it more than I do.”
“I’ll bring your cooler back,” she said as she went out of his office.
“You do that,” he muttered, watching her leave the building.
Moving as quickly as she could with a full cooler swinging from one arm, Buffy made her way back to Restfield. She pushed the crypt door open with her free arm, kicking it closed behind her without turning around. The candle was still flickering, allowing her to look around the surprisingly large area. She spotted a few more candles and quickly lit them, throwing the room and its inhabitant into much sharper focus. She saw no sign of something to use to feed Spike the blood, so pulled a bag out and held it near his face.
“Come on, Spike. Wake up. I brought you some blood, but you need to sit up.” There was no response from the inert vampire. With a sigh, she slid one arm behind his shoulders and lifted him into a semi-sitting position. He had gone into game face at her touch, but still seemed unconscious. She rubbed the top of the plastic bag against one exposed fang, uttering a quiet “yes!” when it ripped open.
She dribbled some of the blood onto Spike’s lips, waiting until his tongue snaked out to lick them before moving the bag back into place. As soon as his demon realized what was in front of him, it was easy to finish the feeding. All she had to do was pour the blood into Spike’s open mouth and watch him swallow it down. When the bag was empty and he began to growl, she shook him. “Just hold your horses. I have to get another bag out,” she snapped. “And stop growling at me!”
She knew she was being unfair, that the growling was coming from an injured demon and Spike probably had no idea he was doing it, but the idea that he would growl at her while she was feeding him had brought an automatic reaction. She dropped the empty bag and reached down for another one, keeping one arm behind Spike’s shoulders. When she stood up, Spike had his eyes open and was staring at her with a puzzled expression on his face.
“Slayer? Where’d you come from?”
“Don’t you remember? I was here before and you told me you needed blood. So I went to Willy’s and got you some blood. Now here, open this one.” She pushed it against his mouth, smiling when he automatically bit into the bag and began to drink. By the time he’d finished half of it, he was able to hold the bag himself and Buffy just kept an arm behind him to help him stay upright. When he’d finished it, she started to reach for the cooler again, but he shook his head.
“Give us a minute, luv. Need to let that do its work.” His eyes drifted shut again, so she gently lowered him until he was lying down again. He sighed, wincing as bones tried to knit.
“What’s wrong?” Buffy’s hand went back to his chest where he was resting one hand on his ribs.
“Nothin’ Ribs are healin’ is all,” he said, biting his lip. “Stings a bit.”
Buffy frowned and pushed gently on one of the ends sticking out. “Shouldn’t we tape these into place or something?” she asked, running her hands over his rib cage as his own hand dropped.
He tried to shake his head, winced and said, “No. They’ll go back on their own. Just need to not be moving around much until they line themselves up.”
“Huh. That’s pretty cool. My bones don’t do that. They heal fast, but they have to be set.”
Without replying, he moved one hand toward her face. “Can’t believe you’re feeding me,” he said, his eyes still shut. “Must look really bad to be getting’ this kind of attention….”
“You do,” she said shortly. “You look like you should be dead…er…deader. Are you ready to tell me what asses I have to kick for this?”
His smile was sad as he opened his eyes to meet hers. “Think you already have, Slayer. Although, if you want to give them an arse-kicking reminder….”
“Remind—? Riley? Riley’s men did this?”
“Them or some of their mates. Were definitely the overgrown, overfed soldier boys. Knew what I was too, and they knew I couldn’t fight back. Used me as a punching bag until I vamped out at ‘em. Then they left me screaming and holding my head – walked off laughing.” He snarled as best he could through his torn lips. “When I get this chip out….”
“Shhh…” She stroked the side of his face until he stopped growling. “You need to stop saying that. If you get the chip out, I’ll have to stake you.”
“You’d stake me?” He raised the hand holding the empty blood bag. “Why are you helping me if you still want to stake me?”
“I didn’t say I wanted to stake you, I said I’d have to. It’s not the same thing.”
“I’d be just as dusted – assuming, of course, that you could take me.”
“I could take you, Spike. Don’t ever doubt it. I’m not that little girl you found on Parent Teacher Night. I’ve kicked your ass a couple of times since then; I can do it again.”
He stared into her steady gaze, then nodded. “Reckon you could at that, luv. It’s not like an ex-fiancé would be as hard to kill as the love of your life. Sent him to hell, didn’t you?”
“I did.” She turned away. “I did what I had to do.” She whirled back to catch him watching her with an expression she couldn’t interpret. “I’ll always do what I have to do, Spike. It’s who I am. It’s what I am.”
“It’s not all you are, Slayer. Not by a long shot.” He dropped the empty bag on the floor, struggling to push himself into a sitting position. Buffy immediately darted back to his side and put her arm behind him for support. He turned his head, putting his now-human features right in front of her face as she held on to his shoulders. It was the first time they’d been so close since the spell that had made them spend an entire evening snuggled into a comfy chair together.
Spike’s Adams apple bobbed as he swallowed hard, his eyes focused on Buffy’s mouth. She gasped, her tongue licking her suddenly dry lips as she stared at the naked lust on the vampire’s face. They remained frozen like that for several seconds until Buffy found her voice.
“D…do you want another bag of b…blood?”
Spike took a deep breath and turned his head away. “Not what I really want just now, but I suspect it would be better for me… Yes, luv. Another bag of blood, if you don’t mind.”
“Here.” She thrust another bag of blood at him, turning away as soon as he took it and fussing with closing the cooler. “There are a bunch more in here. Let me know when you need another one.” She picked up her textbook and, more to avoid looking at Spike than anything else, sat down against the wall under the largest candle. “As soon as you can reach them by yourself, I’ll get out of your… I’ll leave you to rest.”
She kept shifting her eyes to Spike until she was sure that he was going to be able to open and hold the bloodbag by himself, then opened her book to the middle of the first act of Hamlet and began to read. There was silence in the crypt while Buffy tried to concentrate on the intrigue going on in a Danish castle and Spike sipped at his third bag of human blood. When he’d finished it, he laid back down to let the blood do its work, turning his head to watch Buffy.
A small frown creased her brow, and she would occasionally grab her lower lip in her teeth as her eyes flew over the pages. He watched her silently until her frown deepened and she was clearly rereading something several times. He made a small sound that brought her eyes flying to his.
“Are you okay? Do you need me to get you more blood?”
“No, thank you, luv. I was just wondering what had you so bogged down there….” He looked away, giving what he hoped looked like a casual shrug. “Thought maybe I could help you out with something….”
“I thought you were too mad at me to be my study-buddy,” she said, staring at the back of his head. He turned it and peered at her over this shoulder.
“If you thought that, why’d you have old Will tucked under your arm when you got here?”
“I… I was going to try… I thought maybe if I….” She took a deep breath and steadied her gaze. “I was going to apologize for what I said last night. I didn’t mean it, I was just trying to make Willow think—”
“You didn’t want the Scoobies to think you could enjoy the company of an unsouled vamp. I figured it out, pet. Was brassed off for a while, but I got over it.”
“You did? When?” Buffy’s mind went immediately to their unsuccessful study session the night before, and she wondered if she should have chased him down.
“’Bout the time you ran in here carrying Willy’s entire supply of O neg. Not the first thing I’d expect from the Slayer, is it?”
“You thought I’d just leave you here like that? That I’d just go, ‘Oh, Spike’s too hurt to help me out. Too bad, guess I’ll go find somebody else.’ That’s what you think of me?” The disappointment on her face had him quickly backpedalling.
“Don’t look at me like that, luv. Know what a caring person you are, know how you take care of anybody you… well, the world, I guess, isn’t it? But I’m just an old vamp that you’re allowin’ to live because you know I can’t hurt anyone anymore. Letting me live and helping me to do it are two very different things, yeah?”
“You think I’d leave somebody I… I know… injured like that if I knew how to fix it?” Her eyes were wide and fixed, bright with tears that she hoped he wouldn’t notice – but he did.
“Bloody hell, Buffy.”
He groaned and slid off the sarcophagus, collapsing before he got all the way to her. While she bit her lip, torn between helping him and kicking him away, he crawled the rest of the way to the wall and pushed himself up to sit beside her. Resting his head on the stone behind them, he became still as only a corpse can, then put his hand over the one she was using to hold her place on the page. He patted it, giving a small squeeze before moving his hand back to his own leg.
“I’m sorry, luv. You’re absolutely right. I should have known you wouldn’t leave a frien—someone you know—in pain if you knew how to fix it. And you did fix it,” he said, giving her a little nudge. “Look at me. Little bit ago, I wasn’t even conscious, and now I’m volunteering to teach you to appreciate Shakespeare. All because the Slayer brought me blood.” He gave her a glance from the corners of his eyes. “I’ll bet you didn’t pay the old thief for it either, did you?”
Buffy gave a half-hearted giggle. “Nope, I pretty much just walked out with it.” She slid her eyes to the side to meet his. “I think you’re a bad influence on me.”
“Jus’ helping you get that stick out of your arse,” he said, flinching when her eyes suddenly narrowed.
“As apologies go, that one sucked,” she said, scooting away a few inches.
He sighed. “It did. I’m sorry. Again. Apologizing’s not somethin’ either one of us is used to, is it? Not to each other, anyway….” He smiled at her. “I’ll try to get better at it.”
“Or, you could try not to say things you’d have to apologize for….” Buffy’s lips twitched as she fought a smile of her own.
“I s’pect I’ll have more success perfecting my apologies than I will remembering not to say things to brass you off.”
She gave an unlady-like snort. “You’re probably right.” She sighed and held out the book. “So, you think you can help me understand what’s going on here before tomorrow morning?”
Buffy left Spike’s crypt as the sun began to go down, giving him strict orders to stay in for the night and get better.
“I’ll come back tomorrow with more blood, and you better be here getting better – not out somewhere getting beat up again.”
“Yes ‘m, Slayer, ma’am,” he said, giving her a mock salute. “Got no plans to do anything but drink up Willy’s nightly profits and let my bones mend. By the time you get back tomorrow, I’ll be my handsome self again.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Just be normal looking, ‘k?”
Laughing at his growled “That is my normal look,” she slipped out the door, closing both the interior and the heavier outer door behind her. It occurred to her that the Initiative soldiers might well decide to investigate a large crypt if they noticed it had an open door. Smothering the thought that she was protecting one of the creatures she was sworn to destroy from her boyfriend’s men who were, in theory, on the same side, she hastened away from Restfield.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.dreamwidth.org/326238.html